Matthew Eaton is tired of seeing his favorite businesses close in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors. First it was Out Of The Oven Baking Company and Salt This Way. And now that Humpy’s Pizza has closed, he wants to try and do something.
Eaton, a resident of Hollywood, has started a petition the day after Humpy’s closed.
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Formerly located in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, Humpy’s was closed after the owner and the owner of the shopping plaza failed to come to an agreement on the rent. Owner Steve DeJong, who opened Humpy’s in 2007, said the increase in rent was just too high. The threat of a lawsuit, regarding Americans With Disabilities violations, also contributed to DeJong’s decision to close. DeJong said he was sued even after correcting the minor deficiencies.
“Basically, they’re raising the rent to the point where it’s unmanageable and not feasible to stay in business. And they’re going to raise it every year for the next 10 years. They’re playing hardball. It just baffles me they’re not willing to negotiate. We have a third of the shopping center empty,” said DeJong on Nov. 2. Earlier this month, Jonathan Gaines, principal with Rivercrest Realty, which owns the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, said he was disappointed he and DeJong couldn’t come to terms on the lease.
Eaton hopes his petition, which has 765 signers as of Nov. 14, will start a conversation and help keep more businesses in Wilton Manors. He also hopes to get the city involved in
“The petition is to support the business currently there. The goal really is to show we have a voice in Wilton Manors . . . to really have the city and the landlords pay attention and work something out.”
“We need people to invest in the community. There are already too many empty stores and lack of creativity. This city will die if we can't compete with many of the other, vibrant, communities rising around us,” wrote Kevin Mahon from Lazy Lake, one of the petition supporters.
But not everyone agrees with Eaton’s petition.
“The owners are free to do what they want with their property,” wrote Fort Lauderdale resident Ken Hatton on Facebook. “We are free not to patronize their businesses. Without the LBGT community, no business will survive there. We have more power in boycotting businesses that don't support our community.”
Rivercrest Realty did not comment in time for publication.
To view or sign the petition, visit change.org/p/save-the-businesses-shoppes-of-wilton-manors.